The terrorist attacks in Paris that have left at least 129 dead and hundreds wounded on Friday evening were committed by Islamists whose activities were apparently ignored by the French security services. Yet in the wake of the January attacks in Paris, French intelligence services were promised more financial and manpower resources, and this summer they were handed vast new intrusive surveillance powers. So just why is it that they appear to be overwhelmed by the jihadist threat? Michel Deléan and Louise Fessard report.
Evidence sought by Paris-based judges leading a highly sensitive judicial investigation into the murders of 11 French naval engineers in Pakistan in 2002, which has exposed a major political corruption scandal in France, has for years been held back by France’s laws protecting defence and security secrecy. The persistent refusal to hand over intelligence documents and the silence of several key witnesses has heightened speculation of an orchestrated cover up to protect political and diplomatic interests. But, Mediapart has learnt, judges Marc Trévedic and Laurence Le Vert have now found a legal loophole with which to overcome the blanket protection of a law too often used to blunt investigations. The breakthrough may at last reveal the truth hidden behind 'The Karachi Affair', a dark and complex case that has rocked France’s political establishment. Fabrice Arfi reports.
Within hours of the revelation last week that a planned armed attack on churches near Paris had been foiled, President François Hollande and prime minister Manuel Valls publicly asserted that it underlined the need for the French government’s proposed new surveillance and intelligence law. This deeply-controversial bill, which gives wide-ranging powers to intelligences services to watch over the population, is currently going through the National Assembly, with a crucial vote due on May 5th. Yet an analysis of the case of arrested student Sid Ahmed Ghlam, who is said to have been planning the assault on two churches at Villejuif near Paris, raises doubts over whether the new powers in the bill would have made any difference. It emerged that Ghlam, who was placed under formal investigation on Friday for terrorist offences, was already known to the security services. Moreover, he had twice been questioned – the second occasion was in February this year – but released each time because officials apparently considered that he did not pose a serious enough risk. Some experts say the authorities should spend more time on prioritising which suspects to watch rather than on seeking new surveillance powers. Jérôme Hourdeaux and Louise Fessard report.